FLIR E8 Thermal Camera Review: A Closer Look

FLIR E8 Thermal CameraThe FLIR E8 Thermal Camera stands out among current thermal camera offerings in one very important way: it offers 320 x 240 resolution for thousands of dollars less than other available cameras. To be sure, the FLIR E8 does not offer all of the features that some users will need, but in terms of outright thermal resolution, it delivers in a big way.

The E8 is part of a new family of FLIR infrared cameras, the Ex-Series. The Ex-Series makes some significant improvements to the outgoing i-Series, including an integrated digital camera, and the addition of FLIR’s MSX image enhancement technology. On the exterior, it would be hard to overstate the build quality of the E8 – the fit and finish are simply excellent, on par with an Apple or Samsung product. The soft touch housing feels great in the hand, and does double duty by providing the thermal camera with enough shock protection to withstand a 6’ drop and keep on working. And while somewhat subjective, it’s our opinion here at Ivy Tools that the E8 and its Ex-Series of thermal cameras have the best overall balance in the hand. The combination of light weight and great balance make the camera effortless to use on larger jobs.

FLIR E8 Missing Insulation

Looking down a stairway on a cold winter morning, the FLIR E8 shows missing insulation in an exterior wall.

But pixel count is why you want a FLIR E8. The 320 x 240 resolution infrared detector provides 76,800 pixels of meaningful thermal data. That’s four times more than a 160 x 120 thermal camera, and a huge step up in picture quality. The first effect of better resolution is simply that target objects are much crisper; it’s easier to understand what it is you’re looking at. Second, more resolution makes it easier to see thermal anomalies. The E8 gives four data points for every area that a 160 x 120 camera averages into one spot. That extra data is invaluable when visualizing subtle patterns such as moisture or air convection in walls. Finally, better resolution means better temperature measurement. When you have four times as many measurement points in each picture, each measurement point will be smaller, and measurement accuracy will be higher.

FLIR E8 Band Board

With a heated room above, this ceiling should not be this cold. The culprit is an uninsulated band board.

While larger resolution impacts picture quality in a major way, the FLIR E8 also utilizes other hardware to meaningfully improve the image. One great innovation is the fitment of a 45º lens. The wider lens allows for a larger target area to be scanned quickly and captured in fewer images. This is especially helpful in buildings, where it is often not possible to back up far enough to capture images of problem areas, or when imaging in mechanical rooms cluttered with equipment. In addition to the wider lens, FLIR has included its MSX thermal image enhancement technology on the E8. MSX mines the data from the digital camera image and then “embosses” it onto the thermal image. The edges and patterns of items that the human eye would see are present, while all color comes from the thermal image. MSX greatly aids in orienting oneself to a thermal image, and makes scanning a target both quicker for the professional, and easier to understand for the customer. One last hardware feature deserving mention is the 0.06 ºC thermal sensitivity of the FLIR E8. This is more than enough sensitivity for most applications, and nearly double the sensitivity required by the RESNET standards for thermography in buildings.

FLIR E8 Attic Stairwell

Stairs to an unheated attic are on the other side of this wall. The insulation is settled and missing.

In addition to resolution and sensitivity, the FLIR E8 has another great benefit over other Ex-Series cameras: an extra battery and an external charger are included. While not technically essential to camera operation, we find that an extra battery is all too often a practical necessity. This can be because the camera was put away with a discharged battery, or simply that the camera is being utilized for long periods of time. Either way, an extra battery and charger are indispensable insurance. Each E8 also includes FLIR Tools software for organizing images and creating reports. FLIR Tools is intuitive to use, and is available for both PC and Apple platforms. Covering and protecting everything else is a rugged hard case. Matching the camera itself, the case is wonderfully designed for both form and function. It’s a professional looking case for a professional instrument.

FLIR E8 Heated Pipe

Here the FLIR E8 reveals a hydronic heating pipe buried in an outside wall.

As mentioned above, the FLIR E8 doesn’t offer every available FLIR feature. You can’t change the lens, or connect the camera over wifi. Yet the E8 is carving out a new place for itself among thermal cameras. For many users, what it can do will far outweigh what it can’t do. It’s a simple recipe, really. Start with excellent resolution. Then give it a price that’s thousands less than similar cameras. All told, it makes the FLIR E8 one of the best values in thermal cameras today.

See more information and technical specifications of the FLIR E8 Infrared Camera at Ivy Tools.

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